I want to drop a note about the importance of emotional engagement with the text. I am not going to claim that a Christian will make a more faithful translation, but only remark that the affective domain contributes to one’s performance of a task.
Do we love the words we are translating? Do we love whoever wrote these words? Do we love those we are translating for? And those we are translating with? Is there a bond of affection and a fellowship of mutual regard?
One of the things that some of us love about the King James Bible is the use of terms like “loving-kindness” and Carl has echoed this in his translation of 1 Cor. 13.
I received an email today asking about the Pagnini Bible so it has inspired me to remark on the affective domain in Pagnini’s translation, and how it has influenced the KJV and contributed to certain emotionally charged passages.
Here is Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew and Pagnini’s for Ps. 22:1a,
- Deus, Deas meus qaure dereliquisti me, Jerome
O God my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? D-R.
Deus mi, Deus mi, utquid dereliquisti me, Pagnini
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? KJV
And Psalm 51:4,
- tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci Jerome
To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: D-R.
tibi tibi soli peccavi et malum in oculis tuis feci Pagnini
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: KJV
I don’t want to squabble about which is more literal, closer to the Hebrew. I think Pagnini’s is somewhat closer, but that is beside the point. The details that he has added to the text change the emotional loading of these passages. I am not able to say whether these subtle changes can be attributed to an earlier commentator or not. However, they have influenced our English textual tradition ever since.
Look at Luther’s translation of Psalm 51:4,
- An dir allein habe ich gesündigt
Against you alone have I sinned
- You alone have I offended
Well maybe these guys thought that Pagnini’s repetition was an unnecessary affectation. We really don’t know. But we do know that translators as individuals leave their mark on the text. We translate out of our love of words and language and expression and God. We can never, as translators, completely prevent our own personality from affecting how we translate. If we are emotionally engaged with the text then that will come across in ways that are peculiar to us.